Delegate Effectively

Jan 24, 2019

By Brian Tracy

Your ability to delegate well to others is a vital function of management and a critical determinant of your ability to succeed as an executive. Delegating is both an art and a science. It is an essential skill that allows you to move from what you can do to what you can control. Through delegation, you multiply your influence in your business by unlocking and using the full potential of other people.

The starting point of delegation is for you to develop absolute clarity about the job that needs to be done. Exactly what is the job? How will it be measured? When does the job need to be completed? What level of skill, ability, or competence will a person require to do this job in an exceptional fashion?

Select the Right Person
An important part of delegation is selecting the right person for the assignment of a particular task. You need to carefully match the task to the skills of the employee. Can this person do this job? Does this person have the required skills and experience to accomplish this task in an excellent fashion?

This decision is very much a matter of judgment, experience, and thoughtfulness on your part. One of the big mistakes that managers make in delegation is assigning a task to someone who does not have the skills, confidence, ability, or motivation to accomplish it.

Your choice of person, then, will largely determine the quality of the end result, and even whether the task assignment succeeds or fails.

Explain the Results You Want
When you delegate, explain the results that you want, and explain why you want those results. When you assign a task, the “why” is more important than the “how.” If people know why you want it done this way, or why the task is important, they will have much greater flexibility to make decisions in the accomplishment of the task. The subordinate will be more creative and innovative in accomplishing the results that you desire.

Avoid Misunderstandings
When you give a task verbally with nothing in writing, the possibilities of misunderstandings are enormous. By the time your employees get back to their office or desk, they will have almost forgotten what you asked them to do, and when, and to what standard. Have employees write down the assignment and then read it back to you.

Once you have had a back-and-forth conversation about the job, and the employee has repeated back to you exactly what you have asked him or her to do, and you are both clear about the assignment, you then turn over 100 percent responsibility for the completion of the task to the other person.

Delegate the Whole Task
It is important that you delegate a complete job, rather than just part of a job. The job that you delegate must be the responsibility of the individual, and the completion of the task must be under that person’s control entirely. Aside from yourself, the other person should not need to get the assistance or support of anyone else to do the job that you have assigned.

People thrive on responsibility for complete tasks. When you give people 100 percent of a job to do, and make them 100 percent responsible, they will be much more motivated to get the job done on schedule.

Don’t Interfere or Take Back the Job
Resist the temptation to go and look over the employee’s shoulder. Resist the temptation to continually offer ideas and comments on how to do the job better. Resist the temptation to interfere. When you give your employees the job, express complete confidence in their ability to get the job done as agreed.

Don’t take back the job, either. If your employee asks you if you would make a phone call for him, or get him some information, or perform a certain task that he needs done in order to do the job that you have assigned him, then he has just delegated the task back to you. Now your employee does not need to do anything until you have completed your work. He can go back to his office and play on his computer until you perform the task that you have promised. Don’t let this happen.

Review Progress Regularly
Finally, schedule regular meetings to review progress. It is during regular meetings that you get a chance to keep on top of things. Like a doctor taking the pulse of her patients, you take the pulse of the task by regularly asking, “How’s it going?”

A major reason for scheduling regular review meetings is to get feedback on how well people are doing with their assignments and how appropriate the task is for a particular person. Sometimes you may accidentally delegate a task that is beyond a person’s capability. The employee may want to do the job, but does not know exactly how to do it.

If you find that the task you have assigned is too much for your employees and they are in over their heads, you may need to restructure the task and break it up into smaller pieces. Or you may have to give an employee additional input or resources, or get someone else to perform part of the task that a person is not capable of completing alone. A particular task may require several skills. Sometimes the person you are assigning work to has several of the necessary skills but is lacking one of them. In this case, you can take this particular responsibility away from the individual and give it to someone who is more competent in that job area.

© 2014 Brian Tracy. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Management (The Brian Tracy Success Library), by Brian Tracy. Used with permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

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About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is one of America's leading authorities on the development of human potential and personal effectiveness. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling How the Best Leaders Lead and Eat That Frog.